How To Create Your Own Website For $1
The least expensive options do require a bit of know-how, but it's not too complicated. The problem is only that many different options exist, and there isn't really a one-size-fits-all solution. For a basic website I'm an advocate for lightweight mobile-ready sites. They're fast, can be looked at with any device, and don't use a lot of data/energy. Low Tech Magazine has a great write-up on the energy costs of the internet. They partly inspired the redesign of my own site.
1. Register a domain name
Namecheap has occasional sales where new domains cost $0.88 for the first year. They won't be the traditional .com but it's an effective way to get started. Otherwise a domain name is usually $10-15 per year, which is already inexpensive.
2. Acquire hosting
When I was a broke college student I used 000webhost. They offer free (limited) hosting, which works well when traffic to a site is low. The company makes money by asking people to upgrade to their paid service (Hostinger). The paid service is so-so and comparable to other paid hosts at $10-16 per month. They have occasional sales where paid hosting is $1-4 per month for a limited time.
Other popular paid hosts include Bluehost, Hostgator, and A2. Hosting typically costs $5-10 per month depending on one's needs. It's important to pay attention to pricing because scammers exist who overcharge for basic services. One time I was talking with a freelance client, we got onto the topic of websites, and he paid more than $100 per month. Do the research. For things like ecommerce the cost is higher because more is involved. This includes Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Squarespace, at about $30 per month.
People who are extremely tech-savvy can do the hosting themselves with Raspberry Pi.
People who aren't tech-savvy might like Wordpress.com. All-in-one packages are popular, for example Wix and Weebly, but they have huge downsides. Wix and Weebly used obsolete technology last time I checked, plus they have design/code/SEO issues, and clients can't transfer their site to another service. They also cost more than DIY options, and their free options are unprofessional.
Wordpress.org is one of the most popular options for design. They have free and paid templates, and some hosting services have 1-click installation of Wordpress. Otherwise, a quick search for "free HTML template" will usually do the trick. Template files can be edited for free with something like Notepad++ or Google Web Designer. There's also paid software like Adobe Dreamweaver. For open source options, click here. Paid templates typically cost $10-20 on sites like Envato, Etsy, and WrapBootstrap.
Editing HTML and CSS can seem daunting, but it's gotten easier over time, and countless resources exist. The answer to any question is just a quick search away. Usually at the comprehensive resource W3schools. Video tutorials on Youtube are also available.
4. Link everything together
The domain name must point to your web host, and you must upload your HTML/CSS files to the web host (either through their site, or a program like FileZilla). This is the most complicated step because everyone has their own process.
5. Bonus step: Other considerations
For an inexpensive basic website, like an author site, Namecheap + 000webhost will do just fine in the beginning. There isn't any need to get fancy. However, there are many options, and hopefully the above information answers most questions. If not, feel free to contact me!